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How Are Racing Greyhounds Treated?
They muzzle is tight, the cage is small and cramped, and soothing words of appreciation or strokes of gentle kindness are forever absent. This is the life of a racing greyhound. These dogs spend the majority of their time locked in kennels, crates stacked high one on top of another. The daylight meets their eyes for fleeting moments as they run wildly around a track, chasing a mechanical lure that outruns them every time. In the eyes of the people active in this so-called sport, the animals are not seen as dogs. They are merely objects of financial interest. If the animals do not prove themselves fast enough to be winners, they are typically euthanized. Because of this, thousands of young, healthy dogs are killed each year. Simply put, the greyhound racing industry is a legal form of animal abuse in today's society.
Animal abuse constitues that an animal's physical and/or emotional needs are being harmed. It entails that an animal is subject to unnecessary harm and pain. Animal cruelty tends to evolve from ignorance, often because many people are simply not taught to respect and care for animals properly. In today's society, animal abuse cases are becoming increasingly more punishable by law. There are also popular television shows that document the severity of animal abuse cases in cities throughout the country. With this ever-growing awareness of animal cruelty it is only fit that the abuse these greyhounds are enduring comes to an immediate end.
From birth, these dogs are judged solely on their racing ability. If any dog is seen to lack the potential to become a star race dog, it is euthanized through the process of culling - a method of removing and killing any unwanted animals in a population. The dogs that survive the culling process are fated with a life that consists of spending upwards of twenty hours a day inside a cage hardly any larger than their bodies. Because many of the greyhound farms throughout the country tend to struggle financially, these dogs are usually fed very low-quality foods that in no way supplement their extensive nutritional needs. The dogs often look emaciated, with their ribs and spine poking out through their thin skin. Also, the fragile nature of the greyhound predisposes them to injury on and off the track. The most common injuries include soft tissue injuries and bone fractures, while less common yet more severe injuries can include spinal injuries and death from cardiac arrest.
In addition to these horrible living conditions, the care greyhounds receive at the track is incredibly appalling and inhumane. Adam Paul, a teenager from Taunton, Massachusetts who was employed at a racetrack near his town, published a testimony regarding the animal cruelty he witnessed at his job. In his testimony, Mr. Paul reported the following:
"The abuse that I witnessed came in many forms. Some more severe than others. The most common abuse that I witnessed was the strangulation of the dog. When the dog pulled the lead-out, it was common practice to strangle the dog to suppress it... Another common form is physically punching or whipping the dog in the head. Fortunately this happens only a couple of times a week by a small number of lead-outs. The more extreme form of abuse comes when the dogs refuse to enter their containers or the starting box. The lead-out, or the paddock judge when shorthanded, physically throws the dogs into the starting box. It is common practice to pick the dog up and launch it into the box, then slam the door down, many times hitting the dog in the back as it tries to back out. If the dog's hindquarters are sticking out at all, I have witnessed the track employees kick it into the box. The most general form of abuse is the lack of warm up of the dogs in the winter. Many times I have witnessed a dog, at the end of the race, fall because it is all cramped up. Unfortunately, this cramping also occurs during the race and causes the dog to get hurt, ultimately resulting in the dog to be put down."
Mr. Paul also explains how the majority of the lead-outs (those who lead the dogs to and from the kennels during racing) were merely teenagers. This utterly despicable treatment of dogs is being taught and enforced to today's youth in their place of work. What kind of message is this sending out about the importance of preventing cruelty to animals?
Unfortunately, many pro-greyhound racing organizations such as The Greyhound Racing Association of America (GRAA) produce significant amounts of industry propaganda, leading the followers of the sport and many who are ignorant of the sport to believe that there are no real problems with greyhound racing. They claim to be non-profit organizations dedicated to the improvement of the industry. The GRAA website claims "The Association encourages responsible greyhound ownership and the best treatment of the dogs." Clearly, while this is encouraged it is not enforced, and that is why there are still so many ethical issues still present in this industry.
Thankfully, many states throughout the country have already begun to recognize the cruelty of the greyhound racing industry. As of February 2013, only 5 states in America still allow this sport to exist, including Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Indiana, West Virginia and Arizona. The most recent states to pass laws forbidding the greyhound racing industry are New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 2010. The United States territory of Guam prohibited commercial greyhound racing in 2010 as well.
Also fortunate for the hopeful elimination of the industry is the fact that greyhound racing has not proved itself for the incredibly lucrative and economically stimulating operation it once claimed to be. Greyhound racing often entices people who are in trouble financially looking to make a quick buck. Winning a significant amount of money by betting on dogs is not very probable, and people are starting to realize this. Additionally, an increase in fraudulent bets have caused many people to steer clear of the racetrack scene. Many tracks across the country have been forced to close due to increasingly dire financial situations. There are, however, numerous tracks and breeding farms still going strong throughout the country.
Today there are hundreds of anti-greyhound racing organizations that dissect the industry and publish all the gory details for the public to see. These groups tell people the truth the industry does not want the public to know, and this has definitely helped spread awareness of problems with the greyhound racing system in America. The reason this industry was able to grow and prosper in the first place was misinformation, ignorance and apathy. Hopefully, organizations such as the Greyhound Protection League and the Humane Society of the United States will be the ones who win the race in shutting this industry down for good.